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OPINION

‘Why do others dominate the top levels of our organisations?’

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Once again, I have just listened to a well thought out, intellectually advanced, clinically forward-thinking presentation by a nurse.

I applaud them and wonder to myself how many people in the audience will act on it, and how many times this piece of work will need to be repeated until it is heard and understood by the high level decision makers in their area?

“I declare that I am a nurse, allied health professional, and strategic decision maker”

At this point my enthusiasm hits the wall of experience, which tells me it will be heard by the audience – but there are no strategic leaders around me. Why? In the majority of cases those strategic budget holders are either busy dealing with operational crisis, or are not clinicians and don’t understand the skills around them.

Why is it that as experienced, graduate professionals we are allowing others to dominate the higher levels of our organisations? We have to make things happen by so many ‘under the wire’ routes instead of actually being in the job, in which we make that decision and take the lead.

That question has grown larger in my world as my career has taken me further into the world of strategic and financial decision makers understand the skills around them.

I declare that I am a nurse, allied health professional, and strategic decision maker. I’ve also spent a lot of time working with people and organisations to help them understand their skills and promote their confidence.

“As nurses, we are so often stuck in our comfort zone, surrounded by people we know”

I stand in front of audiences ranging from executive nurses, senior managers, engineers, estate agents, public sector colleagues in other sectors and when I ask “do the right people always get the senior jobs?” The answer is always “no”. My next question is “why is that? If it is within your reach, did you apply?”

If the right people don’t always get the job, who was the right person for the job and why didn’t they get it? In my experience, it is often because they didn’t apply. There are so many reasons why nurses do not apply for the next step or more senior role where they can have more influence. It may be because they don’t want to leave their friends, become management and leave patient care, or actually face filling in the form or having an interview.

There is another reason I would suggest. Sometimes we look at a job description, read it and see one or two requirements that we haven’t done before,  maybe holding a budget or delivering presentations – things that are a little outside of our comfort zone.

It is interesting that amazing nurses, dealing with complex decisions and clinical crises every day can be put off by some comparatively straightforward things which we can easily learn. There should always be an element of a new job we have to learn – how else do we grow and develop? There will be people to support us in learning; experts who can help.

“My plea to nurses reading this is to take a new look at all those opportunities that cross your path”

As nurses, we are so often stuck in our comfort zone, surrounded by people we know, in systems we are really familiar with and when a crisis comes up, we know that we can deal with it.

My plea to nurses reading this is to take a new look at all those opportunities that cross your path – new jobs, secondments, opportunities to be part of groups and projects – believe in yourself and that you have a lot to contribute.

Remember that what you don’t know, you can learn. What is unfamiliar now will become second nature in just a few months’ time.

So, please, take a first step out of your comfort zone and make sure the right person gets the job.

Naomi Chapman is clinical programme lead and deputy chief nurse, NHS Clinical Evaluation Team, Department of Health

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